Just One Step Forward

Stop and look in the mirror. 100% happy with everything you see?

I certainly am not. I’m still scrawnier than I’d like to be. Ideally, I want to gain another 30 pounds of muscle. My bank account? Well, that’s scrawnier than I’d like it to be as well. My career is moving along, but if I’m honest, I’ve not done as much as I thought I would when I was a senior in college and expected myself to change the world. Socially, I have a few good friends and I’ve made a lot of progress towards overcoming that natural shyness that I grew up with. But you know that guy that just walks into a room, commands instant respect, and electrifies the crowd? That’s still not me.

If I honestly assess where I am at as a person vs where I’d like to be, I see so much ground I need to cover. It’s a bit overwhelming – so much to do. I find myself either stressing out about how far from my ideal self I still am or trying to just accept where I am now as good enough.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

I could freak out and stress over how much work I still have to do or I could give up and just accept I’ll never reach my goals, but a third option exists. Just One Step Forward. All I need to do today is take one step forward towards my goals. Just one step. Slow, steady forward progress will eventually accomplish your largest, most incredible dreams.

What can you do today to take 1 simple step forward? Here’s a few ideas.

  • Take a jog to burn some calories and strengthen your heart.
  • Sign up for a class in something you’ve always wanted to learn.
  • Visit the store and buy one clothing item that fits well and gives you confidence.
  • Join an online dating site and practice chatting with someone.
  • Better yet, visit a coffee shop and make small talk with someone there.
  • Sign up for a gym and search Youtube for a few basic workouts.
  • Fill out a to-do list to get yourself organized.
  • Clean one room or even one part of a room.
  • Message a friend to reconnect.
  • Read the first chapter of a book you’ve always wanted to read.
  • Drop $10 into a savings account.
  • Take 5 minutes and just breathe. Repeat the word “peace” or “strength” or “love” in your mind. You just meditated.
  • Plan to help someone today. When the opportunity presents itself, go for it.

None of these ideas are dramatic or life-changing. But then again maybe they are. If the journey of a thousand miles really does begin with a single step, then these simple steps may change you in ways you can’t imagine. You don’t have to change the world today. You don’t even have to transform yourself. You need just take a single step towards a better you. And in doing so, you just might end up changing yourself and the world more than you ever realized.

If you really want to master something as quickly as possible and go from first step to goal even quicker, I highly recommend The First 20 Hours – How to Learn Anything Fast. Josh Kaufman helps self-directed learners like us expedite the learning process get to the stage of enjoying what we’ve learned as fast as possible. If you are serious about self-improvement, moving forward towards goals, and achieving skills faster, then consider this book a strong introduction to everything you need to know.

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Happy reading, happy improving, and may your small steps lead to giant leaps toward your dreams!

Too Busy for the Gym?

If you want to improve your life this year, the first thing you need to banish is your list of excuses. Then again, sometimes our excuses are pretty legitimate.

Good example – you might be working overtime, filling your spare moments studying a foreign language or working on your side business. So you aren’t just belly-aching when you say you are too busy or tired for the gym.

I hear you, but don’t give up so easily. Oftentimes with a touch of creativity, we can explode our excuses and find a way toward our goals. Here is one of my favorite shortcuts to success.

Too busy for the gym? Too tired? Here’s the routine. Order a pull-up bar for a doorway you pace through frequently in your home. Everytime you pass, do a pull-up. Boom, that’s your workout. Too easy? Do two pull-ups. Or two pull-ups and a couple pushups.

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Cost? A few bucks for a pull-up bar. Time? 30 seconds here and there throughout the day. Results? You’ll work your shoulders, upper arms, back, and core.

So how about you? Taking this same principle of finding simple hacks around common excuses, what ideas do you have? Share yours in the comment section below!

 

 

The 3 Shortcuts to Wisdom

books-768426_960_720Recently I answered a question on Quora on the topic of shortcuts to wisdom. I’ve expanded my ideas and want to share them with my readers here at Improve My Life This Year.

Year by year, I’m sure you notice that you become wiser. What if we could accelerate that process? What if we could become wiser, faster? We can. Let’s see how. Let’s see the 3 shortcuts to wisdom.

Shortcut #1 to Wisdom – Mistakes

You learn most when you are in-over-your-head, taking on challenges you never faced before. And in that kind of environment, you will screw up a lot and make many mistakes. The pain and frustration of those setbacks will spark awareness and new understanding. And you’ll be on the fast-track to wisdom. That is of course if you engage in self-reflection at each moment and use your mistakes as learning opportunities.

Shortcut #2 to Wisdom – Mentors

The cool thing about mentors is, they have already screwed up a lot. So, of course, you can spend a lot of time making your own mistakes, but another great way to become wise is to learn from the mistakes and experiences of others. On the plus side, learning through mentors saves you a lot of struggle and pain. On the down side, that lack of direct experience makes it harder for you to truly understand as well as you can from your own mistakes.

Shortcut #3 to Wisdom – Reading

The final shortcut is reading. Think of this, if you read a book by Elon Musk, you are almost having a conversation with him. If you read my post, you are, for a brief moment, peering into my little bit of wisdom. Reading is not so dissimilar to finding a mentor. The conversation is just one-way from them to you, but you are not limited by time and space. You can select from millions of potential mentors from the past and present with a quick trip to the library. Or better yet, you can get a Kindle and read on-the-go, throughout the day. Wherever and however you prefer, just find  a way to read.

Good luck, and may you find wisdom on your life journey!

Jamie

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The Many Colors of Wine Beyond Red and White

Note: Today’s Post comes to you from our friends at Wine Awesomeness. As part of my own self-improvement journey, I like to learn more about a wide variety of topics. I used to think wines were either red or white. Now I know that the wine world is a lot more complicated (and colorful!) than that! 

A Painters Palate of Wine Wonders

Remember the days when you served wine and asked – “Red or White”? Well those were simpler times and the choices were limited. Now there are so many colors they resemble a painter’s palate. According to the team at Wine Awesomeness, the group dedicated to creating a monthly journey, curated for adventurous souls, some of these new, off-beat beverages have fared better than others.

A Match Made in Wine Heaven

Want to coordinate a particular wine with a holiday color scheme? You’ll be in luck when St. Patrick Day rolls around, when you serve Green Portuguese born Vinho Verde.

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And if you’re inclined to satisfy your guests’ patriotic pleasures, you can offer them a choice of red, white OR blue (also known as Gik) that is quite off-color in all its iridescent splendor. How it came to be is simple…young Spanish entrepreneurs who decided that the world needed an incandescent blue wine joined forces (or in this case grapes) with the Basque government’s food research bureau and experts at the University of the Basque Country. Next came a base wine, some food coloring and sugar. According to the team at Wine Awesomeness, this creation leaves a bit to be desired.

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Are you yearning for yellow? Known as “Vin Jaune” in its native French, yellow wine is a unique type of white wine produced in the Jura region of France from late harvest Sauvignon grapes. Pair this nutty flavored concoction with the regional comté cheese and you’re in for a gastronomic whirlwind of contentment.

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And yes, there are even grapes that produce an orange vintage (perfect for fall football parties). But if you’re still a loyal pastel pink fan, then Rosé has elevated your summers to a whole new level. Rosés are essentially baby reds, experiencing shorter maceration periods than their red counterparts. Depending on which grape varietals are used and how long skin contact is, rosés can range in color from the palest of pink to the deepest of magentas.

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A Club for Wine Warriors

The Wine Awesomeness Monthly Wine Club delivers your choice of wines right to your door. The Wine Awesomeness team combs the globe to find the coolest, crave worthiest wines. This is vino you don’t see regularly, but will want to drink every day. If you JOIN TODAY, you’ll get a free bottle with your first box! Welcome to the world of wine the Wine Awesomeness way.

3 Killer Ways to Improve Your Writing

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The pen is mightier than the sword. Are you well-armed?

If you want to improve your life this year, a key area to target is your communication skills. We’ll cover conversational skills in a different post, but let’s focus on writing today.

Fair or not, people judge your writing skills A LOT! Your resume. Your school assignment. Your dating profile. Your social media posts. These have the power to shape your life. If your writing skills aren’t at the level you’d like, then please, follow my 3 steps and you will be a better writer today!

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#1 Avoid Crutches:

So, crutches are those things you add to your writing, thinking they add value, even though they don’t. What do I mean? Let’s look at some examples more closely.

Adverbs – Take a look at these sentences. He shouted loudly. She walked nervously. He ate quickly. He spoke proudly. All these sentences contain adverbs and all these sentences could be made stronger. You see, writers often lean on adverbs because they have chosen weak verbs. Look at the verbs in those sentences. Shouted. Walked. Ate. Spoke. All of these are rather generic and weak. That’s why the adverbs were added to give a little more color to the sentences. But better yet would be to swap out the original verb/adverb pairs for a single powerful verb. Look at how we can upgrade these sentences. He roared. She tip-toed. He gulped. He gloated. There is almost always an amazing verb that will improve the sentence. Find it. Use it. Instant improvement.

Adjectives – Take a look at these sentences. The beautiful girl sang a lovely song. The small house was in the green forest.The hungry wolf wanted to eat the pig. See the adjectives? Beautiful. Lovely. Small. Green. Hungry. Notice that they are common and overused adjectives that don’t really add much value to the sentence? Their only role is to take your eye off the fact that the nouns are even more common and overused. Girl. Song. House. Forest. Wolf. Pig. So here’s what to do. If possible, combine the adjective and noun into a new noun which carries the meaning of both. “Beautiful girl” can be an “angel”. “Small house” can be “a cottage”. If such a word does not exist, (for example there is no specific word which means “hungry wolf”) at least choose a more specific adjective, and consider substituting some imagery in place of the standard noun. Let’s see how this looks. “The beautiful girl sang a lovely song” becomes “The angel sang a stirring aria.” Better yet, “sang” is an overused verb, so let’s change the sentence to “The angel lifted her voice in a stirring aria.” Amazing improvement. “The small house was in the green forest” becomes “The welcoming cottage was nestled in a peaceful green sea of trees.” “The hungry wolf wanted to eat the pig” becomes “The rapacious monster longed to devour the unsuspecting farm animal.” If you want your words to come alive, swap out the common for the uncommon and you’ll get instant improvements.

Cliches – I struggle so much with this. A cliche is any phrase that has been used again and again to the point of losing all freshness and originality. As much as I try not to, I tend to overuse cliches frequently.

“At the end of the day”

“All’s well that ends well”

“Bring your A-game”

Here’s a huge list if you’d like to see more. http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-cliches.html

Like I said, I’m bad at it; I use cliches far too often. When you catch those, cut them out and come up with a fresh way to say it. Now that you are aware of it, you’ll notice them in your writing. Ruthlessly remove and replace for an instant boost to your writing.

#2 Get a Decent Thesaurus:

Seriously. Get a physical copy, place it on your desk and become friends with it. Refer to it often. A good thesaurus contains far more than just synonyms. I personally love Roget’s Thesaurus of Words for Writers. It contains over 2,300 emotive, evocative, descriptive synonyms, antonyms, and related terms every writer should know.

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As you refer to a thesaurus over time, your vocabulary and writing skills naturally strengthen.

Avoid Grammar and Spelling Mistakes:

OK, if you follow steps 1 and 2, you’ll be crafting incredibly descriptive sentences now, but you still don’t want a perfectly good email or journal entry to be marred by basic errors. How can you avoid making grammar and spelling mistakes, especially when you are in a hurry? I use Grammarly.

Grammarly is a cloud-­based application. As of now, it checks for over 250 types of common grammatical errors, corrects contextual spelling mistakes (which means it’ll notice that you used “too” when you probably meant “to”), enhances vocabulary usage, and provides citation suggestions as you type (a fantastic aid for college students). My favorite feature is that it runs in real-time as you type, so you see a variety of suggestions which don’t obstruct your view or distract you as you work. If you want to correct an error, you simply click once on the suggested improvement and your text is instantly fixed. There are browser extensions available as well, so wherever you are typing (emails, Facebook, blog comments, etc.) you are protected from errors. They have both a free service and a premium one. I started with the free service for some time; later I upgraded to premium and I love it even more. Seriously try the free version for yourself and I’m pretty sure you’ll wonder how you lived and worked without it for so long. Millions of people worldwide including myself rely on Grammarly and it can be the key tool that makes you a better writer.

So there you have it! Avoid crutches like boring adverbs and adjectives. Get a thesaurus and use it as you write to build your vocabulary. And use Grammarly to catch all the tiny errors that you miss but the judging eyes of someone else won’t. I truly believe that as you write better, your career, your relationships, and your reputation will improve.

Go for it, and if you have additional tips, feel free to share them in the comment section below!

Jamie

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You, CEO – Introduction

black-and-white-1282290_960_720Hi readers!

Welcome to an incredibly important new series here at Improve My Life This Year. For the next week, we will cover 7 ways to overhaul your life by thinking like a CEO.

I graduated with an MBA in 2009, and the things I learned in those classes have had many amazing spillover benefits into the rest of my life.

When you think about it, you are not so different than a company. You have income. You have expenses. You have limited time. You have competitors. Goals. People who expect things from you.

The thing is, a company has a CEO who helps manage the whole company and keep it on track. Who do you have? You have you, of course! Whether you realize it or not, you are the CEO of your own life. How has your performance been so far?

If you are serious about improving your life this year, consider taking your role as CEO more seriously.

For the next week, I’ll be your management consultant and I’ll give you simple, practical advice to help you reboot your company (you!) and set it on a path of long-term success.

Along the way, you’ll learn how fundamental business concepts that major companies follow every day such as Pareto’s Law, ROI, Monitoring, A/B Testing, Data Mining, Benchmarking, and Branding can be applied to your life for fantastic results. Are you ready?

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Welcome to You, CEO.

Our first meeting is tomorrow. See you soon!

Jamie

Stay connected! Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter! 🙂

P.S. If you want to get started on some homework before the first lesson begins, sign up for the free version of Grammarly. Grammarly is a real-time grammar editor that will keep your writing error-free, warn you about plagiarism, and help you improve your writing. After all, a CEO can’t be a sloppy communicator. Try Grammarly today and I’ll see you in the boardroom tomorrow!

Grilling for Pleasure and for Profit

71QrTpwmSwL._SL1000_It’s almost Father’s Day in the US. It is also almost summer. It is that time of year when man longs to be outdoors, preferably along with fire, beer, and meat.

All Hail Grilling

Grilling is a fantastic hobby. It gets you out in the fresh air. It connects you with friends and family. It turns you into a good cook, a great conversationalist, a host, and a master of the flame.

Getting into outdoor grilling is actually very easy. There are 5 easy steps. Let’s check them out!

Step 1: Choose your Grill

First you need a grill. Start with something moderately-sized at the beginning. If you wind up loving the hobby, you can upgrade in the future. Here are some great entry-level options to consider which won’t break the bank.

Step 2: Choose your Tools

Next up you’ll want to get a few accessories to make the job easier and keep you looking cool while you grill.

I recommend this set.

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Beautiful, inexpensive, and the complete package of what you’ll need to get started.

Step 3: Choose your Fuel

All grills need an energy source to generate heat. The 3 most common methods are electricity, gas, and charcoal. Depending on what you selected in Step 1, you’ll have different needs here in step 3.

 

My grill uses charcoal. If yours does too, consider using my favorite charcoal. It burns hotter than most and is the go-to choice for many restaurants.

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Step 4: Choose your Recipe

OK, time to choose what you are going to cook. Great choices include burgers, steaks, and hot dogs. Also don’t forget to grill some veggies. You may have vegetarian guests and, let’s face it, properly grilled vegetables are downright awesome.

To find a recipe, browse some online recipes or even better, ask an older relative to share one of theirs. After all, one of the great things about grilling is it encourages bonding and the passing down of traditions and advice.

Step 5: Choose your Event

Now you are all set. Invite some people over to your place and show off your new skills. It is a great chance to reconnect with family, to bond with coworkers, to meet people in your neighborhood, and to make new friends!

Happy Grilling!

Jamie

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